SPAIN would not block a bid by Scotland to rejoin the EU, according to a senior MEP from the country’s ruling party.
Esteban Gonzalez Pons from Mariano Rajoy’s Popular Party said the Catalonian situation was “very different” to that in Scotland, and indicated concerns over the possible breakaway of the province from Spain would not be an obstacle if a newly independent Scotland wanted to join the EU.
Anti-independence campaigners in Scotland have frequently suggested Rajoy and his party would block Scotland if it tried to apply for membership of the EU after a successful independence vote because to do so would be to encourage Catalan separatists.
Loading article content
But in an interview for the BBC Pons said: “If Scotland wants to come back [into the EU] they have to begin the procedure as would any other country.” Asked if Spain would veto a Scottish application, Pons said: “No. If they are thinking about Scotland the Catalonian situation is very different to the Scottish situation.”
Meanwhile the chief negotiator for the European Parliament has said Individual British citizens should be able to “opt in” to the EU.
Guy Verhofstadt said he hopes to convince the other EU leaders of the merits of allowing Brits ripped out of Europe after Brexit of being able to maintain certain rights, if they apply for them.
The Belgian’s comments came as Theresa May attended her final leaders’ summit at the EU. The Brexit bill is expected back in the Commons next Monday, where, if there are no surprises, it will be stripped of the amendments added to it by the Lords, and passed by MPs.
The Lords will not challenge the Commons’ supremacy, which could mean the Prime Minister is in a position to trigger Article 50 as soon as next Tuesday or Wednesday, just days before Nicola Sturgeon and thousands of SNP members descend on Aberdeen for their Spring Conference.
Verhofstadt, who has previously made friendly overtones to Scotland, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “All British citizens today have also EU citizenship. That means a number of things: the possibility to participate in the European elections, the freedom of travel without problem inside the union ... We need to have an arrangement in which this … can continue for those citizens who on an individual basis are requesting it.”
He told the programme more than thousand people had written to him, saying they had lost part of their identity when the UK voted to leave.
He also said the first thing to do after Article 50 had been triggered was to reach a deal on what would happen with EU citizens living in Britain, and British citizens living in Europe.
Verhofstadt also ruled out a return to a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.
The difficulty of the “opt-in” plan is that there is little support for it in Brussels. It would be something of an expensive, logistical nightmare. Verhofstadt has offered an olive branch but plenty of other countries would not help the UK. It would also need the Tory government to agree a reciprocal deal, which is unlikely.